A journalist who disappeared last month in Mali’s northern city of Gao appeared in a video today, appealing to authorities to do everything they can to free him from Islamist militants holding him.
“I’m Olivier Dubois. I’m French. I’m a journalist. I was kidnapped in Gao on April 8 by the JNIM (al Qaeda North Africa).
“I’m speaking to my family, my friends and the French authorities for them to do everything in their power to free me,” Dubois said in a 21-second video shared on social media.
French civilians have long been favoured targets for kidnapping by criminal and Islamist groups in West Africa’s arid Sahel region, partly because of perceptions that the French government is prepared to pay ransoms to secure their release.
France has repeatedly denied paying ransoms for hostages.
“We confirm the disappearance in Mali of Mr Olivier Dubois,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement, stopping short of describing it as a kidnapping.
The ministry said it was in contact with his family and carrying out technical checks on the authenticity of the video.
Malian authorities were not immediately available for comment.
Dubois is the first French national to be taken hostage by jihadist militants in Mali since French aid worker Sophie Petronin was freed in October last year. She had been abducted near Gao in late 2016.
Islamist militants have repeatedly declared French citizens in West Africa to be targets since a 2013 military intervention by France drove back al-Qaeda-linked groups that had seized cities and towns in northern Mali a year earlier.
Scores of Islamist insurgents were released in a prisoner swap deal that liberated Petronin, a senior Malian politician and two Italians.
The head of Reporters Without Borders said on Twitter that the media freedom organisation had been aware of Dubois’s disappearance two days after he did not return to his hotel in Gao after lunch.
Christophe Deloire said Dubois worked for France’s Le Point magazine and Liberation newspaper.
“In consultation with the news organisations that employed him, we decided not to announce that he had been taken hostage so as not to hinder a rapid possible outcome,” Deloire said.
“We are asking Malian and French authorities to do everything possible to obtain his release.”